THE VIOLENCE OF A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT SECRETS
EPFC | April 15th, 2019
MARVELOUS MOVIE MONDAYS!!�
guest curator: Alex Johnston
The theme for this month: “SAYS WHO?”: MEDIA AND AUTHORITY
How does authority inhere in media? How is it maintained and how is it expressed? Who has the authority to define the past? Who has the authority to determine the future? Who has the authority to speak for whom? Who has the authority to lead? Who has the authority to bury the dead?
This week we’ve got the Khalil Brothers’ and Jackson Polys’ bold yet ruminative 2017 short, THE VIOLENCE OF A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT SECRETS. The film recounts the struggle of five Columbia Basin tribes to rebury the remains of one of their ancestors, known as “The Kennewick Man,” whose skeleton was discovered in 1996 along the banks of the Columbia River in the south eastern part of Washington state. Their demand was thwarted by a group of forensic anthropologists, who filed a lawsuit claiming that the cranial features of “The Kennewick Man” indicated that he was of European descent, and therefore not a tribal ancestor. (This lawsuit was gleefully endorsed by white supremacist groups, who claimed that the discovery proved their status as indigenous peoples.) The forensic anthropologists’ claim on “The Kennewick Man” for the purpose of “scientific study” was upheld by the courts, who asserted that the tribe’s oral histories constituted unreliable evidence. This decision was finally overturned in 2014, when advancements in DNA testing proved that “The Kennewick Man” was in fact an ancestor of the tribes, at which point he was reburied in a secret location.
In recounting this horrifying (and horrifyingly typical) incident, THE VIOLENCE OF A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT SECRETS offers a bracing meditation on the central role of enlightenment institutions and ideals–such as the museum, the archive, the courts and the scientific method–in enacting and maintaining hegemonic violence by the settler colonial state against indigenous peoples. The authority of these institutions to determine what constitutes valid forms of “evidence” and “knowledge,” is revealed to be a fundamental tool in maintaining control over every aspect of the lives, deaths, histories, and memories of subaltern peoples.
Enjoy THE VIOLENCE OF A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT SECRETS: https://vimeo.com/217342747